What will a shopping centre look like 200 years from now?

If we look at the durability of the structures, we can be sure that Mall of Tripla will still be standing two hundred years from now. The internal walls, on the other hand, may have been moved from one place to the next any number of times, writes Pirjo Aalto, Mall of Tripla’s Director, Commercial Development.

As early as around 500 BCE, the philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus stated something along the lines of the only permanent thing in the world being change. And this is indeed so: the plans that we make today to prepare for the future are only educated guesses in terms of what the future has in store for us.

The structures of Mall of Tripla are being built with true intent, to stand the test of time. Parts of the foundation are looking at a life cycle of up to two hundred years. But what will the shopping centre operating within those walls look like two hundred years from now? Now there’s a tough nut to crack for those of us building Mall of Tripla!

Along the way, we’ve had to make decisions without the gift of fortune-telling – otherwise, Mall of Tripla’s walls would not be standing at their current height right now. Two principles havenevertheless taken us fairly far.

First of all: background work is extremely important. Even though we do not have a crystal ball with which to peer into the future, we can make good guesses about what tomorrow may bring by studying the path from the past to the present. We can also make guesses and sense what people will want and need in the future by watching and listening to young people – the path turns from the past to the future. The good thing about change, of course, is that it usually takes place more slowly than we even realise. The popularity of organic produce is a good example of this. For decades, Finnish people responding to surveys expressed a desire to buy organic, but instead of exponential growth, the use of organic products has grown slowly, albeit surely. Changes to habits and what we’re accustomed to always take time.

The same goes for the customers of Mall of Tripla. This is why we conducted, nearly five years ago now, an in-depth customer survey in which we charted their needs and wishes now and in the future. The concept of a shopping centre always starts from the hopes and needs of a customer, and the only way to get to the bottom of those is by asking – early enough. 

Secondly, adaptability is a shopping centre’s lifeblood. There has been quite a lot of talk about the death of shopping centres in recent years. The truth is that the only shopping centre properties drawing their final breaths are those which cannot adapt. The modern consumer is looking for experiences and restaurants in addition to shopping, but some of the shopping centres opened only a few years ago have been designed so inflexibly that they cannot respond to a growing need without spending millions on investments and large-scale renovations.

At Mall of Tripla, adaptability has been accounted for more thoroughly than in any other property project I’ve seen, from the very beginning. In addition to as much as 30 per cent of the area having been reserved for experiences and restaurants alone, the smart engineering solutions allow business premises to be expanded by dismantling both walls and ceilings. The structures only need to withstand new escalators, for example, and due to ventilation, the building systems cannot get confused as a result of changes to business premises. The needs of different tenants – from the scent-removing ventilations of a perfumerie to a restaurant’s grease ducts – have been thought out throughout the property. An adaptable shopping centre keeps up with trends, even if business sectors would undergo even radical changes.

When these two principles – careful background work and good adaptability – are in order, there’s no need to fear change. Quite the contrary, in fact: at its best, change brings excitement to life and keeps things interesting. And when walls can move exactly where they’re needed 200 years from now, you can look at future changes in a relaxed manner, planning the next big trend’s deployment at Mall of Tripla.